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Around the Irish Horn in a pair of beach cats

Jan 1, 2003
From Ocean Navigator #127
January/February 2003
Two English sailors navigating a pair of 16-foot catamarans sailed halfway around Ireland this past summer, falling short of a complete circumnavigation of the Emerald Isle but succeeding in raising £100,000 for charity. Digby Fox and Tim Swinburne set out from Dublin in August 2002, sailing south until they rounded Cape Clear and progressed north. Twenty-one days after departure from Dublin, the duo fetched up in Galway on Ireland's west coast and decided to quit. (They had allotted only 21 days and were delayed by periods of gale-force wind and heavy fog.)

What were the days like? "They were long days. Up at 0700, launch at 0900, back in at 1900; boats derigged and made safe by 2000 or 2100," Fox reported. "The east coast was generally light, so we went slowly for hours; then we picked up speed along the south coast, trapezing for hours at a stretch, beating upwind. Those were the most exhausting days, clawing 45 nautical miles upwind. We did have some relaxing days, when the boats were set up nicely and we just glided along looking at the cliffs and headlands, which was nice."

Aside from having a grand time testing the limits of their beach cats, Fox and Swinburne were raising money for the construction of a hydrotherapy pool, which is used for the treatment of rheumatism and other muscular and skeletal ailments. Fox was motivated in part by the death of his infant son, Harry, who was born in 1998. The infant suffered an infection during the first few days of life and was left severely brain damaged; he couldn't see, hear, swallow or move his limbs. His parents found that he responded to being immersed in warm water. After he died at 12 months, they turned their attention to developing a hydrotherapy pool and program for the town of Somerset, England, where Fox lives.

Will he continue his voyage? At press time, Fox was concentrating on entering a fifth Fastnet race and said he hopes to continue his round-Ireland voyage in 2003 - depending on how much vacation time he can noodle.